Old Town Library, Swindon

Deborah Lamb – Library Manager at Old Town Library, Swindon – gives us a overview of their vibrant and inclusive Community Library.

The library has been running since 2017 and is a great example of a Community Library embracing and engaging with local users to cultivate a wonderful community space.
Their response during the months of forced closure in 2020 due to Covid, organising story walks and  themed activities outside, was indicative of the need in the community for education, social interaction, learning and sharing.

They have gone from strength to strength over the past 6 years and are now looking forward to opening a brand new community managed library in Summer 2023.

If you’d like to find out more, or connect with Old Town Library, you can contact Deborah here: oldtownlibrary@southswindon-pc.gov.uk

Find Out More

CML Presentation – Old Town Library

Old Town Library | Library in Swindon Old Town | South Swindon Parish Council (southswindon-pc.gov.uk)


A New Guide to Help Libraries Re-open and More

Libraries Toolkit

Libraries Connected published its toolkit to help libraries to reopen in July and to reintroduce their services gradually, in line with the latest public health advice. The safety and health of staff, volunteers and users are at the forefront, and the toolkit was developed in partnership with heads of library services and their teams. The set of resources will support their planning for service recovery as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted: For more information please select this link: Library Recovery Toolkit

Did you see this article in the Guardian about the re-opening of Libraries?

Thought you might be interested in this link to an article on the re-opening of Libraries in the Guardian featuring the Corbett Community Library: Select to find out more: Guardian Article

An example of how Dorset Library Services is working with local CMLs

Wool Community Library, Dorset

A massive thanks to Tracey McGregor, the Dorset Head of Library Service for sharing the following: Recovery planning, Risk Assessment to support staff return to sites and service offers and Individual Specific Risk Assessment Template. Tracey has been working closely with local CMLs to inform and go forward together. We hope you find them useful.

A Case Study from Jesmond Library in Newcastle

Chris Clarke and colleagues from Jesmond shared a case study about their journey as a CML and some useful lessons we can learn from their experiences, thanks to everyone involved.

Stay safe.

In profile: Garden Suburb Community Library

As part of this blog we regularly post profiles from different community managed libraries. Supplied by some of our network members we hope these will start to build a picture of the different models of community managed libraries that exist and that we can learn from each other’s experiences.

This month we’d like to welcome  Garden Suburb Community Library to the blog.

In 2011 the London Borough of Barnet (LBB) reviewed the library service in the borough and announced that they would close two libraries, in Hampstead Garden Suburb (HGS) and Friern Barnet.

A group of residents from HGS which is one of the first planned garden suburbs in the UK and has a defined and active community of 5,000 households ( http://www.hgstrust.org/the-suburb/the-suburb.shtml )  campaigned to prevent the closure of the library and presented the council with a petition of over 2,000 signatures. This resulted in the relevant council committee offering local groups the chance to bid to run the two libraries at low or no cost.

A group supported by the HGS Residents Association submitted a successful bid for the HGS library and was given 6 weeks to prepare to take the library over. We opened in April 2012.

We were gifted the library fittings and existing stock, given an annual grant of £10,000 to cover all running costs, four new computers and as the LBB did not want us to use their existing library management software they bought us Micro Librarian Systems software which we chose together. They also pay our rent.

We are based in a very small shop in the heart of the HGS just off a small shopping centre on the busy main road. As such we don’t get a great deal of passing trade, but serve the local community, and after another round of cuts in the LBB are now open and staffed for more hours than any other library in the borough.

We are a company limited by guarantee and charity and have 7 trustees who divide responsibilities up between them.

We are open 5 days a week (Tuesday – Saturday) and have two volunteer shifts 10.00-1.30 and 1.30-5.00. Two volunteers are on duty at all times and they are responsible for opening the library up, running it and closing at the end of the day.

We have approximately 40 volunteers, all of which are DBS checked. They do an initial half day training course, sign a volunteer agreement and most of them volunteer every two weeks. Initially we drew our volunteers from the local community. We have a local community newsletter which goes out to all 5,000 households 4 times a year plus an active chat line, both of which we used for recruitment. After two years local volunteers began to run out, so we now use London-wide volunteer recruiting websites. This has resulted in volunteers coming from a much wider area, and also a decrease in the average age – initially we mainly had retired volunteers, now an increasing number are in their 20’s and 30’s. Many of our volunteers are now people coming from abroad and living in London. We do have a fairly regular volunteer turnover with volunteers moving away, getting employment and moving on. We have never employed anyone.

We have 2,500 users and a stock of about 5,000 books, children’s DVD’s and spoken word. Initially we bought these through the LBB book buying service, but this was not ideal, and we now have a book buying committee and buy most of our books from Amazon. This has resulted in the lending rates increasing dramatically, as we are now buying books that our users actually want to read.

We have a very well used children’s section which accounts for 55% of books borrowed. We have also established a relationship with various local schools, and now have a weekly visit from one special needs class.

We run weekly sing song time and story time sessions for under threes which are extremely popular and occasional children’s activities in the school holidays. There is a very popular monthly book club and we have occasional evening author talks, the latest one selling out.

Our small space limits activities and so many activities undertaken by other community libraries, such as running a cafe, would be impossible for us.

As far as the future is concerned we have a great deal of support from the community, but are reliant on support from the LBB. We have an agreement with LBB for another 4 years, but there could be another round of cuts then which may affect us.

Do take a look at us here www.gardensuburblibrary.org.uk and if you are passing call in!

Thank you Garden Suburb Community Library for this fantastic in-depth profile of your journey so far and the work you’re doing and best wishes with your future plans.

If you’d like to share your library’s story with the community managed libraries network via this blog then please fill in the Contact Us form or email  CommunityLibs@unlt.org

In Profile: Blackfen Community Library

As part of this blog we regularly post profiles of different community managed libraries. Supplied by some of our network members we hope these will start to build a picture of the different models of community managed libraries that exist and that we can learn from each other’s experiences.

This month we’d like to welcome Blackfen Community Library to the blog.

Who we are

We are a community library in the heart of Blackfen High Street and our vision is to have an ‘open door’ for our community – providing opportunities to access a great world of books in a comforting ‘third space’ – a home away from home. We believe our library space offers us the opportunity to not only cater for specific population groups, such as children, families, students, the unemployed, carers, the retired and anyone who needs a place to belong – but also a brilliant way to bring different groups in our community together. Our motto is ‘a big hello’ – a warm greeting and welcoming space for everyone – including those who may not always feel welcome elsewhere. Our coffee shop is a central part of our library and we run various programmes and events in the space to bring our community together.  We have big ideas for the future and our staff and volunteers have a big heart, using our space to impact Blackfen for good.

How we run

In 2015/16 The London Borough of Bexley invited community organisations to apply to run several libraries in Bexley including the Blackfen library. The New Generation Church Trust (who runs other community projects in the local area, such as Lark in the Park and Hope Community School) applied to the Council and were approved to run the library in Blackfen as a community library. The New Generation Community Trust was then established to deliver the service level agreement in partnership with Bexley Council.

The New Generation Community Trust opened the Blackfen Community Library in April 2016 and the library now has just over 3,600 members. The Library management is governed by the Trustees of the New Generation Community Trust who meet quarterly. We have a manager who is currently a volunteer and leads a team that has a mix of volunteers and paid staff on a day to day basis. Many of the library tasks are lead and managed by experienced volunteers (Library Leads and volunteer champions) and they are responsible for book stock management, book replenishment, handling the Library Management System and computer and printing access. The Community Lead (volunteer) coordinates and organises the programmes run in the Library, such as children’s story times, recruits volunteers and links with schools. The paid staff are all part-time and assist with financial administration, facilities management and running the coffee shop.

The London Borough of Bexley support the Blackfen Community Library through quarterly funding grants, enabling peppercorn rent for the lease of our building and assistance with facilities and repair costs for our building. We cover the costs of our IT, utilities, access to the Library Management System and other running costs. We also do other fundraising and have received some ad hoc grants from local traders (e.g. the local Tesco and Co-op do local fundraising in their stores for us) and we have just launched a ‘Friends of the Library’ scheme providing special benefits to members who pay an annual subscription, such as free hot drinks from the coffee shop and venue hire discounts. All the revenue from the coffee shop goes into the Library as do other small sales from second hand books and small charges for printing and copying. We have generous donors who contribute to special events, such as the ‘open door’ lunch we run to encourage isolated people in the community to come out for a meal and meet other people from the local area, and our free Santa’s Grotto with presents for local children.

We have a close working relationship with the Council and report on a quarterly basis on progress against key performance indicators and events going on in the Library.

What we offer

Our community library offers a great range of books for adults and children and we regularly ask our users what books they would like to borrow to inform our stock orders. We have a book club and craft group for adults, space to sit and study; free wifi and computer access with affordable printing for those who have no personal access to computers. We have a dedicated space for children (and we hope to further develop a space for young adults). We run fun and educational experiences for babies and pre-schoolers (every week there is one programme for under 1 year olds, two ‘story and rhyme times’ with singing, and one craft activity for pre-schoolers), and a space for their carers to relax with a coffee and no pressure to leave. Our coffee shop is buggy and kid friendly and we run a coffee morning once a week with discounted hot drinks to encourage people to come and make friends.

We run craft and scrabble clubs for adults and the retired, with subsidized drinks so pensioners can enjoy some affordable social time. We make space for groups who would otherwise find it hard to find a place to meet – like the local Parkinsons support group who have a monthly coffee morning in the library meeting space, with special mugs and VIP treatment from the coffee shop. In the summer we ran a ‘pop-up’ Library in the park as part of Lark in the Park to promote awareness of our Library and ran story times in the park for children.

We are also the only premise with a public toilet on our entire high-street, so we make sure it is in excellent condition and hassle free to access.

We offer volunteering opportunities and work experience for those who are unemployed or under-employed and involve local volunteers in every part of our organisation, from shelving books, to making coffees and planning library activities. We hope to provide more sophisticated training and work experience in the future to our volunteers.  We have close links with the Bexley Volunteer Service Council, who refer volunteers to us, and we are further developing our links into local schools to offer high quality work experience.

We currently have 15 Library volunteers and 4 coffee shop volunteers on a weekly basis and a wider team of up to 27 volunteers at any given time.  We have recently recruited 5 part-time employees across the library and coffee shop to enable us to extend our open hours from 25 to 32 hours a week (10am-5pm Tuesday to Friday and 9am-5pm on Saturdays).

Our vision for the future

The focus of the last 18 months has been on establishing ourselves on the high street and growing our membership and programmes. We want to continue to build on the Library’s success to create a lively community hub providing great library services and a creative and empowering space for the community of Blackfen. Ideas we have include providing more formal training and inspiring experiences for our volunteers (to ‘give back’ and build capability in our volunteers), develop book related parties for children, to develop a creative space for young people to express their literary work (open mic sessions/book launches), to provide more support and training to facilitate work experience for young people with disabilities; provide work experience opportunities in the coffee shop that provide unemployed people valuable transferable skills, provide ‘life coaching’ sessions for our staff and volunteers to enable them to achieve their potential, running repeat events that have been successful in bringing isolated people in the community to the Library (in partnership with local traders) and inspiring local writers and performers to use our space to promote local creativity and bring people together.  We also want to network with other community libraries in our area and further afield to learn from best practice, share knowledge and improve our capability.

You can connect with us at:





Thank you Blackfen Community Library for this brilliant in-depth profile of the work you’re doing and best wishes with your future plans, we look forward to hearing how you’re getting on.

If you’d like to share your library’s story with the community managed libraries network via this blog then please fill in the Contact Us form or email  CommunityLibs@unlt.org

Guest post: Chris Plant on his experience of the Legal and Governance Workshop

The Community Managed Libraries network is running a number of webinars and workshops on topics relevant to those that are involved in running community managed libraries. Following on from our November Legal and Governance workshop delivered by David Alcock from Anthony Collins Solicitors, we asked one of the attendees, Chris Plant, if he would write a post about the event and his experience of it.

My name is Chris Plant. I am Staffordshire County Councils Libraries and Arts Service Community Capacity Manager. Following Staffordshire County Councils commitment to transform its Libraries and Arts Service and not close any libraries in the County, I hold responsibility for the transfer of 23 of the County Councils 43 Libraries through into community management. I manage a Team of 6 Community Support Officers who help recruit, train,build capacity and provide ongoing support to the 800+ volunteers and 13 community organisations who are currently operating in Staffordshire’s Libraries.

So far in Staffordshire we have transferred 18 Libraries through to community management. We are currently progressing the 5 remaining library transfers. We are also working in partnership with all the community organisations to ensure all 23 Community Managed Libraries are sustainable as we move forward into our third year of Library Service transformation.

I registered on the Legal and Governance session with Anthony Collins Solicitors after reading about the session on the Community Managed Libraries Network Blog.

I felt that as a member of staff working for Staffordshire County Council it would help to have a refresh of some of the detail relating to key topics such as setting up a community enterprise, dealing with governance and community organisations arrangements with local authorities.

In my previous role in Housing I had worked closely with Anthony Collins and so I was confident that the training offered would be of a good quality and provide me with some additional knowledge and understanding. I’m fully aware too that these sort of sessions can provide an excellent networking opportunity. I’m a huge believer in learning and sharing with colleagues (both staff and volunteers) across the West Midlands and beyond to help embed best practice.

The Workshop saw quite a diverse group of attendees from across the country. There was representation from Upper Norwood Library Trust (who are, of course, facilitators of the National Community Managed Libraries Network). There was also attendance from Cambridge Council, volunteers from Coventry City Council Library Service as well as Harbury Community Library in Warwickshire. The London Borough of Brent was also represented too. Also one of Staffordshire’s early transfer Community Managed Libraries in Rising Brook, Stafford attended. Viv, the Lead Volunteer there is a member of the Community Managed Libraries Network and booked the session co-incidentally to me. Good to see her there.

David Alcock from Antony Collins led the session. Aside from the key areas outlined above, what really brought the session alive were David’s real life examples and experiences that he had working with community organisations and some of the trials and tribulations and learning they went through. I found this approach engaging and it allowed for a better understanding than just the legal facts as they sit.

The session was well paced and allowed for contributions from those in attendance, both with questions from our differing perspectives and also experiences and examples we had been through whether as a community organisation or staff within our respective authorities.

The accompanying notes were comprehensive and have provided a good ‘go-to’ suite of information for myself and my Team to refer to as we engage further with community organisations moving forward.

I don’t want to concentrate on the finer detail of the course except to say it was comprehensive, but a couple of the key points that I picked up…

‘Not worrying about labels associated with different legal structures’ and an overview of Charitable Status criteria, managing risk, models of working with councils and tools and structures for doing so. This was all really good stuff to update myself and my Team on and be able to further understand Community Managed Libraries in Staffordshire requirements.

All in all, I found the session to be a great networking opportunity, a comprehensive briefing session and actually a pretty enjoyable half day out!!

Thank you Chris. Chris Plant is Community Capacity Manager at Staffordshire Libraries and Arts Service. For the latest news from the team visit their ‘People Helping People’ Blog

Web: www.staffordshire.gov.uk/libraries


Blog: http://scchost.org.uk/ccblog/

The next Community Managed Libraries event is a free Business Planning webinar on 15th December. You can reserve your place and find out how to join the webinar here and our future events can all be found on the blog events page.

Guest blog: Deeping Community Library

This week we’re pleased to welcome one of our network members, Friends of Deeping Library, as our guest blogger. Many thanks to Judy Stevens (Cllr) for this insight into Deeping Community Library.

The Friends of Deeping Library took over the running of the Library, a beautiful Georgian building at the heart of our community, in January 2016. We employ a Library co-coordinator and are open now for 24 hours a week – this after a very hard fought battle with Lincolnshire County Council who wanted to reduce us to a volunteer only library (we service a catchment area of 20,000 residents). With help from the Parish and Town Councils and the refurbishment of the first floor of our building (now let as offices) we are now able to employ a member of staff and have a rota of volunteers.

A great success for us has been in encouraging young readers into the library. We were very proud when last year we broke the Deepings library record for the Summer Reading Challenge with 56 children completing the challenge. But then this year a staggering 120 children completed the challenge.

70 young readers came to receive their Summer Reading Challenge awards at a special event. The awards were presented by the Chair of Deeping St James Parish Council and the Mayor of Market Deeping Town Council – and by local poet Toby Woods who had all the kids heartily laughing! It was a much enjoyed event and a triumph for those that told us there was no longer a need for libraries.

Regular library activities include Knit & Natter, Storytime, Deeping Ducklings for birth to 18 months, Scrabble Club, Creative Colouring adults drop-in colouring session and designated special library Quiet Times for quiet reading, studying and relaxing. We have monthly speakers who talk on a range of subjects, which recently have included bees, raptors and owls.

The library has a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/deepingscommunitylibrary/

In Profile: Chalfont St Giles Community library

Chalfont St Giles Community Library recently received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service which is the highest award given to volunteer groups in the UK. Here Mike Bedford, Treasurer of Chalfont St Giles Community Library, describes the library’s journey.

A Community Library success story in Buckinghamshire

Chalfont St Giles Community Library is a small public library in the centre of the village. The library is run and staffed entirely by unpaid volunteers. There are 26,000 visits to the library annually. The library is a registered charity (a CIO).

Some history

The library was built by Buckinghamshire County Council in 1966. It ran as a county library for forty years. In November 2006 the County controversially closed the library along with seven other small Bucks libraries. The County provided the village with an alternative mobile library service. The village was strongly against the library’s closure. At the time the County would only allow the library to continue if it was run at ‘no cost to the County’.

We [the Friends of the Library] consulted the community, including the Parish Council, and with their support we decided to take up the challenge. We opened as a self-managed Community Library in January 2007.

In 2010 the County revised its policy agreeing to work in partnership with the village and provide some support to the Community Library. The mobile library was redeployed. Also in 2010, Chalfont St Giles Parish Council purchased the freehold of the library building from the County.

What has contributed to the library’s success?

Our volunteers are crucial to our success. We have around 50 volunteers, a good proportion of whom have been with us since we opened in 2007. Many, but by no means all, are retirees. There is a good team spirit and as local residents and library users themselves they help ensure that we provide the best possible service for our village. Volunteering at the library is also quite a sociable activity and new contacts and friendships are made through volunteering.

Our strong volunteer support has enabled us to increase the library’s opening hours by 70% to 34.5 hours a week. Broadly we follow the opening hours of the village shops. We have two volunteers on-duty, previously the library was single staffed.

Village residents are very supportive of the library. They continue to use the library in good numbers. Comparing the library now to the County library back in 2006, library visits are well up and children’s book lending has increased. Adult book lending is lower than in 2006 but the decline has been significantly less than the national trend.

We work hard on the book stock to make sure it is up to date and balanced. We have increased the stock by 60%, particularly improving the children’s section.

An important ingredient in our success is that we are able offer a full library service in exactly the same way as in the County’s libraries. We use the County’s library management system, we can join new users, stock can be borrowed and returned across the County and Community Library network, we can reserve any County stock item for local pick up, we manage and update our stock locally and we can order stock via the County and have it delivered to us shelf ready.

We work in partnership with the County Library Service and our library is part of the Bucks statutory service. The County provide us with an annual grant, IT and systems support, library training and some book stock. The aim is to provide users with a high quality local service as part of an integrated county wide library system.

Although we are space constrained we use the library as much as possible for events. We have ‘Bounce and Rhyme’ every week and we run craft sessions for the children. We have class visits from the village school. Other events, for example, MP and Councillor surgeries or computer taster sessions, are organised as required.

Communicating what’s on at the library and keeping our service in front of residents is also important. As well as the usual posters we use our village’s excellent weekly email newsletter which is received by over half the households in the village. At a more mundane level one of our first actions was to put a ‘Community Library’ sign on the building and put an A-board sign prominently outside to show that the library is open. Previously it wasn’t clear that the building was a library or whether it was open!

When we started back in January 2007 the village’s visitor information point was moved into the library. This improved the service and enhanced our pool of volunteers.

The library has been completely refurbished over the last few years. This year we’ve changed the layout with a new reception desk in a new position and we’ve bought some modern mobile shelving units. The library is now a much more welcoming and flexible space. Funding for the refurbishments has come from the Parish Council, the County Council and local residents who are Friends of the Library.

Some concluding thoughts

Overall our Community Library is a success and I’m delighted that our volunteers have received the Queen’s Award in recognition of their work over many years.

Whilst a well-funded traditional paid staff library is likely to be the best option for any community, our experience indicates that it is possible to do things differently and be successful.

The model that works in Chalfont St Giles may not work everywhere. Our library is small with light to moderate use. Buckinghamshire is a relatively prosperous County with a sufficient pool of people with the time and skills to operate the local library. Trying to follow the same model in a busy town library in a deprived area would be much more challenging.

The public library service remains a wonderful thing. Libraries are important community builders. Libraries are particularly important in smaller communities where there are few other public facilities. We all know that times are challenging for councils and public libraries, thus it is more important than ever that councillors and library service managers work closely with their communities to ensure that access to library services is maintained and that communities are not damaged by closing libraries.

Further information

Community managed libraries: good practice toolkit


Buckinghamshire Library Service’s view of Community Libraries


Chalfont St Giles’ checklist for communities considering setting up a Community Library


Many thanks to Chalfont St Giles Community Library and Mike Bedford for such an interesting post. If any other community managed libraries would like to tell their story or showcase their work on our blog then please contact us.

News from the Network: Community Libraries in the North East

This is a guest post kindly written by Chris Clarke from Friends of Jesmond Library.

Following the first meeting of the national Community Managed Libraries Peer Network, the Friends of Jesmond Library (in Newcastle upon Tyne) decided to mark Libraries Week by hosting an informal workshop for community libraries in the North East of England, including those interested in forming new community libraries.

The free workshop, held on 11 October 2017 in Jesmond Library, attracted representatives of two existing community libraries (Low Fell, in Gateshead, and Jesmond itself), three groups aiming to set up new community libraries (Whitburn, East Boldon and Boldon Lane, all in South Tyneside), and two interested local authorities (Newcastle and South Tyneside).

In line with recently published national research (the report is published here), there were interesting differences between the situations in each area, particularly in the detail of the relationships (or proposed relationships) between the community libraries and their respective local authorities, on such subjects as Library Management Systems, book purchasing and inter-library loans.

On all sides there was a remarkable degree of goodwill on show, both in the preparedness of the community representatives to help each other out, such as by exchanging documentation and practical tips, and between the local authorities and the community libraries in their areas. Clearly, massive cuts in local authority budgets loom large in the background to the whole discussion, but most people at the workshop seemed to agree that a community library was at least a better option than no library at all, and could be much more than this.

Other key topics discussed also mirrored national discussions: volunteer recruitment and management; and generating enough income to be sustainable.

It was agreed to meet again in six months time, in Low Fell, by which time a number of key decisions should have been made in South Tyneside. And in the interval before then, most participants were making plans for more one-to-one contacts, both between community libraries and between the libraries and their respective local authorities.

Areas felt to be worth exploring further both across all the volunteer libraries and between the libraries and their local authorities included :

  • Greater involvement and cooperation in national and local public library initiatives such as the Summer Reading Scheme and World Book Day;
  • Sharing and enabling access to training and general library awareness for volunteers in libraries; and
  • Increased sharing and/or signposting of library catalogues both across volunteer led libraries and with their own library authorities, to ensure that the resources of volunteer led libraries can be better shared.

Friends of Jesmond Library would be delighted to hear from other actual or proposed community libraries who are within easy reach of North East England, and/or would like to exchange information on any of these topics. Chris Clarke at Friends of Jesmond Library can be contacted at chrisclarkenewbrough@gmail.com

In profile: Sheffield Library Service

As part of this blog we will be posting profiles of different community libraries each month. Supplied by some of our network members we hope these will start to build a picture of the different models of community managed libraries that exist and that we can learn from each other’s experiences.

This month Sheffield Library Service have written to tell us about their libraries service and the different models they operate within the city; the support provided for the different library types and how this works in practice for them.

There are three different types of libraries operating in the city of Sheffield:

  • Sheffield City Council (SCC) run libraries, staffed by SCC employees;
  • Associate Libraries;
  • Co-delivered Libraries;

Sheffield library services run 11 Hub libraries, Central Library and a Home Library Service contributing to SCC’s statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service as required by the Libraries & Museums Act 1964.

Community led libraries staffed by volunteers set up in 2014 consist of:

  • 11 Associate Libraries;
  • 5 Co-delivered libraries;

Neither Associate nor Co-delivered libraries contribute to SCC’s statutory duty.

Prior to the volunteer groups taking on the running of libraries an extensive training programme was provided by Sheffield City Council via Voluntary Action Sheffield and Sheffield Library Service. This training programme aimed to give new groups of volunteers the core skills needed to both run a small voluntary organisation and a community library. This training programme began approximately 6 months before the volunteer groups took over the libraries. Ongoing top-up training is still provided by SCC.

All the volunteer groups except those that would be running Burngreave and Tinsley Libraries took over the running of their library in September 2014. Some of the libraries opted to open immediately for a seamless transition and others closed for a week and re-opened the doors at the beginning of October. Library officers were heavily involved in the first two weeks of opening to ensure as seamless transition as possible.

Co-delivered libraries receive all the services that Council run libraries get, but not the staffing.  The Council pays the running costs for the building directly (out of the Library services budget). The library building remains the property and responsibility of SCC.  The offer also includes support from Library Information Officers in the form of advice and guidance. Also included is the provision of new books and lending materials and access to any local or national initiatives, such as the Summer Reading Challenge, that the Sheffield Library Service is participating in. Support for the Co-delivered libraries is from the core libraries budget and is therefore subject to any changes in the budget.

Co-delivered Libraries in Sheffield are:

  • Broomhill;
  • Burngreave;
  • Park;
  • Southey;
  • Woodhouse.

Associate libraries are ‘independent libraries’ with the offer of a peppercorn lease and a package of support. Until April 2017 this has included a grant (based on the former building running costs of that library), salary of a Volunteer Co-ordinator employed by the library service, training for volunteers and management committee members, and to cover costs (incurred by the library service) of the library groups remaining on the Library Management System. This grant did not include purchase of new books.

A further package of support has been agreed for April 2017- April 2020, the new package also includes provision to purchase new books for the Associate Libraries.

Associate Libraries in Sheffield are:

  • Ecclesfield;
  • Frecheville;
  • Gleadless;
  • Greenhill;
  • Jordanthorpe;
  • Newfield Green;
  • Stannington;
  • Tinsley;
  • Totley;
  • Upperthorpe;
  • Walkley.

Other Key points:

  • There are around 400 active volunteers in Sheffield Volunteer run libraries at the moment;
  • The Associate Library grant is administered by the Contracts and Partnership team with SCC. Liaising with the library service, they issue grant criteria and collect monitoring data;
  • The Contracts and Partnership team also collect monitoring data from the Co-delivered libraries although they do not receive a grant;
  • The Council Library Management System is called ‘Symphony’ provided by a company called Sirsi Dynix who (at the moment) contract with Capita who are the system administrators (not the library service). Capita will not accept calls from volunteers so all issues are relayed via the library service;
  • Training is provided in using the LMS. Training in data protection, safeguarding and trusteeship is also periodically offered;
  • A Library group co-ordination meeting is hosted at central library, and was initially chaired by library officers (at the library group’s request). This originally met every two weeks (if not weekly), and very recently has started meeting monthly. The meeting has split into two parts, a strategic group that meets one month and an operational meeting the next;
  • Most of the Associate libraries have, in addition to the SCC Library management system, their own localised lending system. That allows them to quickly get donated books into circulation at their library;
  • Being on the Councils Library Management System offers volunteer libraries the following:
    • Access to the Council wide book stock
    • Ability to reserve items from any library in the city and further afield
    • Free use of self service machines (Radio Frequency Identification Devices) where these are installed.
    • Computers and computer maintenance
    • Access to the internet for library users via the ‘people’s network’
    • Van deliveries (bringing and returning reserved stock)
    • Service users can use their SCC library card.

What really works? In Sheffield the volunteer libraries meet on a monthly basis to discuss issues relating to the delivery of volunteer run libraries. This gives them a vital opportunity to share experiences, skill and knowledge as well as proving a forum that encourages cooperation and working together. Representatives from Sheffield Library service also attend these meetings so that they can help, advise or work through problems. It is usually trustee level representatives who attend these meetings, but other volunteers often attend to aid with knowledge sharing.

If you are a trustee or volunteer for a community managed library and would like to share your story with us then we would love to hear from you, email communitylibs@unlt.org